Book Review: Girl Walking Backwards

Title: Girl Walking Backwards

Author: Bett Williams

Genre: Lesbian cuming of age YA

Read: Jan 10-15, 2011

Summary: Less than Zero meets Rubyfruit Jungle.


This book is rather brilliant, but isn’t for everybody. In my review of Lost It (CLICK HERE), I had inquired if anyone knew any YA that was racy, and this was recommended. It’s written in a breezy first-person past with a kind of stream-of-consciousness lightweight quality that made me have to look to make sure it wasn’t persent tense. The prose is very very good — fitting the material perfectly.

Skye is a fifteen-year-old growing up in Santa Barbara, and she’s basically raising herself. Her mother is a self-help seminar junkie and all-around new age psychotic, her dad (divorced) lives in LA where he directs films and has sex with pretty production assistants. Neither seem to think about her at all. She has a boy friend, sort of, but wants a girlfriend. She drinks and does drugs, but she isn’t a bad girl.

Somehow this character rang very true for me, and the voice is intensely personal and likable. Even the hare-brained situations seem very real, and like Less than Zero the substance abuse and self destructive behavior believable. The voice effortlessly shifts with the state of mind — often altered — and does a first class job conveying that. For some, this might be a hard book to read, particularly if one were right-wing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bret Easton Ellis‘s above mentioned masterpiece feels like watching a train wreck. While Girl Walking Backwards doesn’t have the terrifying “all rashed and looks dry and I can see that it’s been shaved” moment, and is ultimately transcendant.

Finally, his is a book that is very candid about sexuality.

Not only do we have various incidents of masturbation, near sex, and actual sex, but they aren’t even the focus. This isn’t gratuitous, it’s just frank. This isn’t about a girl becoming a lesbian, or coming out. It’s about a girl trying to find her footing in a world without foundations.

Book Review: Forever

ForeverTitle: Forever

Author: Judy Blume

Genre: YA drama

Read: Mid October 2010

Summary: Loved it.


Everyone should read. Okay. I admit I read a ton of Judy Blume back in Elementary School, but it’s been a long time. I found this because I was trying to find out how edgy YA books really get, particularly with regard to sex. Incredibly, a quick googling seems to indicate that 1975’s Forever is still about as much sex as YA gets. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong (and link me to some books) because I really want to answer the question as to how extreme (when well done) is appropriate for YA books today. In any case, somehow I had missed Forever in the 70’s — probably because I stopped reading Judy Blume at 10 or 11. I shouldn’t have. It’s great, and holds up perfectly well as an adult novel. After reading so many recently published and truly mediocre YA books (I’ll get around to reviewing some of them) this was like a breath of fresh air. First of all, I’m in awe at Blume’s skill at holding your attention with nothing but normal life. Mostly through dialog and a bit of interior monologue she paints incredibly real people effortlessly. I’ve now read a couple other books recently, and all her characters are always distinctive and real. In Forever she writes in a tight first person present. This drops you nicely inside the head of the narrator, but she doesn’t overdo the interior monologue (which I find tedious). There is none of the snarky-boy-crazy quality of so many current voices, just a very real teenager. Also, having grown up in the 70’s, I loved the subtle nostalgic flavor of suburban 70’s life. The book is never preachy, and despite the fact that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happens, holds your interest through every word. The sex is frank and quite funny, using a clever device to soften it. You’ll know when you meet Ralph. Basically it just sticks your head right into this little slice of life, particular person, time and place, and holds it there for about two hours.